Sohail Rana: Maestro with the Midas touch
By Anis Shakur
Many of the great works of sublime beauty are the precious fruits of man’s mental agony, and we would
be poor, indeed, if the willingness of man to suffer should disappear.
The above aphorism holds true to music great, Sohail Rana.
Mein bhee Pakistan hoon tu
bhee Pakistan hai
Tu to meri jaan hai tu to meri Aan hai
Tu mera Emaan hai
Sohail Rana, who is the
son of renowned Urdu poet, Rana Akbar Abadi, was born in his native city, Agra, Uttar Pardesh, India, to a highly literary,
academic and respectable family.
They all migrated to Pakistan after partition.
Years passed by and Sohail Rana successfully completed his primary and secondary school education in Hyderabad, Sind,
He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the university of Karachi through D.J.
Science College initially. Later he received his final B.A. degree from National College, Karachi. Sohail Rana met Waheed
Murad for the first time at a get together at Waheed Murad’s party in Karachi.
In due course of time, Sohail Rana and Waheed Murad became very close friends,
because of their several common interests such as music, films and literature. Incidentally, Sohail Rana took admission in
the University of Karachi for Masters degree in English literature when Waheed Murad was attending the convocation that year.
Thus started a durable friendship between them, which lasted up until Veedu’s death on Wednesday, November 23, 1984.
Sohail Rana demonstrated an unusual aptitude for music as a teenager. He learned
music from various ustads and familiarized himself with numerous musical instruments, which added to his experience.
The film ‘Insaan badalta hai’ was the production debut of Waheed Murad.
Theatrical release was on May 5, 1961, starring, Darpan, Shamim Ara and Lehri.
The film ‘Jab say deikha hai tumhain’ was Waheed Murad’s second
film as a producer and the musical debut of promising Sohail Rana. Theatrical release was on March 29, 1963, Cast included
Darpan, Zeba, Lehri and Agha Jan.
Huge audiences were drawn to the two highly popular numbers of ‘Jab say
deikha hai tumhain’:
‘Ye khushi ajab khushi hai’ (singer: Ahmed Rushdi)
‘Jab say deikha hai tumhain, dil ka ajab Aalam hai’ (singer: Saleem
Movie zealots agree that ‘Jab say deikha hai tumhain’ proved to be
a stepping-stone in the fabulous movie career of talented Sohail Rana.
Readers, let us draw near and listen to his gift:
‘Ko-Ko-Korina,’ ‘Bay taab ho udhar tum’, ‘Jab pyar
mein do dil miltay hain’, ‘Oont pay baitha mera munna’, ‘Meri Qismet bata, hai meri kya kheta.’
Sohail Rana composed the super hit songs for the golden jubilee film, ‘Heera
Aur pathar.’ Theatrical release was on December 11, 1964. The film completed 68 houseful weeks. That is part of what
sets the quality so far above its competition. Its music is so innately appealing, so fresh-spirited, that one has to admit
that the standards were set for a much grander scale.
‘Heera Aur pathar’ became a musical phenomenon, and Sohail Rana became
a necessity in the burgeoning music industry.
Moreover, he accepted every new challenge, which required a concerted effort and
always came out with the appropriate stuff, what people wanted to hear.
By the mid-1960s, Sohail Rana had become such a success, where he was able to
fathom the depths of emotions through his musical masterpieces.
At the end of every accomplishment, he raised his levels of aspiration and expectation.
One could discern that every piece of music was torn straight from his soul.
Sohail Rana earned plaudits from his fans for the superb composition of ‘Mujhay
tum say mohabbat hai’ (Film ‘Heera Aur pathar’, duet, Ahmed Rushdi – Najma Niazi), which figuratively
added fresh elements to his stew.
The tragic score, ‘Ja ja ray chanda ja ray’ was recorded in Mala’s
voice and the song was composed by the great Sohail Rana, for ‘Heera Aur Pathar.’
Pakistan’s first platinum jubilee film, ‘Armaan’ was released
on March 18, 1966, which may be the finest and most gripping movie to date. It is an epic tale of broken hearts and broken
Sohail Rana’s excellent composition for the songs of ‘Armaan’
is, indeed, his greatest achievement as a music composer, which will stand as a musical high point as long as the Pakistani
film industry exists.
A savant said years ago that, ‘Lyrics may come from ones mind. But music comes from
There might not be a better example of the above statement than the evergreen
song, ‘Akele na jana,’ superbly composed by Sohail Rana. In fact, marvelous Mala mesmerized millions through her
greatest singing achievement, when ‘Akele na jana’ was recorded in her magnificent voice.
Most definitely, Sohail Rana’s music compositions in general and ‘Akele
na jana’, with sixty five musicians then, the biggest orchestra ever, in Mala’s voice, in particular, came from
the innermost recesses of his heart.
Further, Sohail Rana won the prestigious Nigar and graduate Awards for the best
composer for the film ‘Armaan.’
Furthermore, movies like ‘Heera Aur pathar’ and ‘Armaan’
also show that the best of the human soul has not yet died.
According to the proponents of music, Sohail Rana’s contribution to the
cause of music is immense and that it ranks him among the most acclaimed composers in Pakistani music history.
To listen to the musical genius, Sohail Rana, is an experience like no other.
Over and above, his music compositions seem to echo his sentiments.
By the end of 1966, music maestro, Sohail Rana, had reached his zenith with astonishing
In the words of the film journalists of the 1960s, ‘Sohail Rana is growing
by leaps and bounds.’
Parables of love, vividly caught by Sohail Rana, while composing the songs like
‘Akele na jana’, not only brought fresh laurels to him but also rekindled the old flames, which is much easier
with Sohail Rana’s music than one may think.
The rhythm of sound is music and Sohail Rana can best be described as maestro
of the music.
His is a music, which can lift people above particular circumstances and inspire
Sohail Rana, who is widely known as an extremely decent human being, worked diligently
and came out with yet more superb compositions for the film ‘Ehsaan.’ Theatrical release was on June 30, 1967.
The idea, which keeps him motivated, is the glory of his remarkable achievement.
His charm and musical virtuosity had won every heart.
The film ‘Ehsaan’ attained silver jubilee with such favorites as ‘Ik
naye maur pay’, ‘Aye meri zindigi aye meray hum safar’, ‘Do akhian, ye do sakhian.’
Sohail Rana’s musical career is a success story with few parallels. Celebrated
composer, Sohail Rana unleashed all his artistic talents, while composing songs for the film ‘Doraha.’ Sohail
Rana is also the producer of ‘Doraha.’
‘Mujhay tum nazar say gira to rahay ho’, ‘bhooli huwee hoon
dastaan’, ‘tumhain kaisay bata doon tum meri manzil ho.’
The songs he composed for ‘Doraha’ also evince that he is an extraordinary
composer and an authority of the highly specialized realm of music compositions, where his competency and artistic skills
His adorers are surrounded by a lifetime of numerous memories of his immortal
Over the years, he worked his magic throughout Pakistan and across the borders.
His magnificent compositions for the Nazm, ‘Qasm us waqt ki, jab zindigi karwat badalti hai.’ (Film: ‘Qasam
us waqt ki.’, director, A.J. Kardar, lyricist, Josh Malih Abadi, singer, Mujeeb Alam) is a cornerstone of Pakistani
entertainment that reflect reality.
Sohail Rana produced lilting music for Nigar Pictures ‘Meray hum safar’,
directed by Pervez Malik in 1972, three of its popular numbers are:
‘Wada karo milo gey.’ (Singer: Ahmed Rushdi)
‘Hai bay qarar tamanna.’ (singer: Mujeeb Alam)
‘Tujh jaisa dagha baaz.’ (singer: Runa Laila)
The longing or the unfulfilled desire, which reflects in ‘Hai bay qarar
tamanna’, is a testament to Sohail Rana’s musical prowess.
Similarly, the despondency and despair in ‘Tujhay apnay dil say mein kaisay
bhula doon’ were vividly caught in the unparalleled music composition of Sohail Rana. ( Film: ‘Shehnai’,
singer: Ahmed Rushdi)
I am pretty sure that if some one were to ask Sohail Rana what he thanks God for
most, then presumably his answer would be that he would thank God, for giving him the gift of composing songs and the ability
to listen to them.
In the early 1970s, from 1974 to 1976, Sohail Rana was appointed as the General
Manager National Orchestra, for Pakistan Television Corporation, based at KTV center Karachi. Consequently, he redoubled his
efforts to compose national songs.
His musical masterpieces, ‘Sohni dharti’ (singers: Shehnaz Begum,
Mehdi Hassan, lyricist: Masroor Anwar) have become part and parcel of Pakistani culture.
Likewise, ‘Jeeway Pakistan’, and ‘Mein bhee Pakistan hoon’
achieved tremendous success.
Additionally, he devoted his time and energy to compose songs for children and
immortalized each and every song.
Sohail Rana’s program for children were telecast from Pakistan television
for 19 years from 1968 to 1987,
from ‘Kaliyoan Ki Mala’, to ‘Sung Sung Chalain.’ In those
days, he wrote and composed more than two thousand songs for children.
Given here below are the names of some of Sohail Rana’s bright students
who attained name and fame for themselves and for their mentor as well:
Mohammad Ali Sheyki, Amjad Hussain, Alamgir, Mona sisters, Benjamin sisters, Adnan
Sami, Wasim Baig, Nazia Hasan, Zohaib Hasan, Afshan Ahmed, Nazneen, and Fatima Jaffrey. Among the above talented students,
Anwar Ibrahim, the youngest student made a special name in naat khaani and hamd-o-sana. Sohail Rana released two cassettes
of Naats by Anwar Ibrahim “Jaan-e-Madina” vol.1 and 2. Both of these cassettes contained the Naats and Humds by
Sohail Rana’s father Janab Rana Akbar Abadi sahab.
Reverting to Sohail Rana’s musical accomplishments, the film ‘Badal
Aur Bijli’ was also a huge success, essentially due to his effective music.
Below are ‘Badal Aur Bijli’s’ three all time favorites, which
are still fresh in the minds of moviegoers:
‘Bansi bajanay walay.’ Noor Jehan.
‘Aaj janay ki zid na karo.’ (Singer: Habib Wali Mohammad and a little
later a private recording by Farida Khanum) the Farida Khanum version has been used in an Indian film ‘Monsoon wedding’.
Though without Sohail Rana’s permission.
‘Dheeray dheeray zara paoon utha.’ Duet: Masood Rana – Mala.
Apart from that, Sohail Rana also composed music for the films, ‘Phir chand
niklay ga’, 1970, and ‘Usay deikha Usay chaaha,’ 1974.
Sohail Rana also served as Resident composer in PIA Arts Academy sponsored by
Pakistan International Airlines from 1972 to 1974, where he conducted Ballet Heer Ranjha, composed and re-arranged music for
folk dances and under the directorship of legendary personality Mr. Zia Mohyeddin and with a team of eighty eight dancers,
musicians, singers, etc, he toured the whole world performing in prestigious auditoriums and earned the appreciation of international
He is hail and hearty and radiates from his eyes the exuberant musical dreams,
beaming with pride, hope and enthusiasm.
Moosa Reza, a loyal fan of Sohail Rana and well versed on him as well, asserts:
‘A nation is, indeed, very poor, which does not value its artists and in case of Sohail Rana, the music lovers should
be all the more indebted to this extraordinary music composer – cum song writer, because Sohail Rana not only impressed
his contemporaries but he has proved resourceful, ingenious and pioneering all through these times.
Moving beyond songs, Sohail Rana had the rare touch and he used it well, perhaps,
During his forty monumentally influential years as a music composer; lyricist
and producer, Sohail Rana also composed the Summit Anthem ‘Allah- O - Akbar, for Pakistan television corporation, in
the voice of Mehdi Zaheer and a group of hundred singers, for the first Islamic Summit conference held in Lahore, Pakistan,
in 1974. TV awarded him as well as Mehdi Zaheer on the release of this anthem.
Pakistan’s most powerful purveyor of popular music, all his music compositions
carry a sweet, open tone and a freshness that never sounds forced.
Sohail Rana also composed and conducted the background music for the documentary
film, ‘Moenjodaro’, and also composed and conducted the entire musical score of ‘Beyond the last mountain’
(Musafir) by producer/director/ ex-senator Mr. Javed Jabbar.
Loved by audiences as well as a new generation of listeners, Sohail Rana has a
knack for finding the best in music.
Consequently, he received the prestigious Presidential Award the “Pride
of Performance”, Gold Discs from EMI for the vinyl album, ‘Khyber Mail’ and his musical works touching the
highest sales figures of EMI ‘s records from 1954 to 1974 in their final sales figures. He was also given the United
Nations Peace Messenger Award, conferred on him, at the United Nations in New York in 1987.
Along the way, Sohail Rana achieved legendary status by influencing and shaping
the Pakistani culture. He participated and represented Pakistan in various international music festivals and conferences and
undertook several cultural and commercial tours almost all over the world. From 1972 onwards, visiting and performing shows
in Iran, Afghanistan, Australia, Fiji Islands, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Jordan, China, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, France, Spain, USA,
Dominican Republic and Canada. The details of some of the tours are appended below:
Jashn-e-Kabul in 1977.
Carnival, Australia, in 1978.
Cultural Troupe, Australia and Fiji Islands with Mehdi Hassan, Moin Akhtar and
Afshan Rana in 1981.
Cultural Troupe to Romania, in 1983.
Cultural Troupe to Russia, in 1983.
Children’s Festival in Jordan,
Pacific traditional music conference in China, in 1985.
Cultural troupe to USA in 1988.
Turkish Radio Television festival, Turkey, 1988-89-90.
Cultural troupes to UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 1989-1990.
Additionally, Sohail Rana composed and produced music for two Mass Gymnastic Displays
held in Islamabad in 1975-76 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Education. His last performance in Pakistan
before he migrated to Canada happened to be the great ‘South Asian Federation Games’, which was held in Islamabad
in 1989 and in which he participated with a group of ninety-five singers, twenty-five piece orchestra and 110-piece brass
Sohail Rana is
a flame, which has been glowing brightly for over four decades. Masha Allah!
One of Sohail Rana’s
innumerable accomplishments is that he also worked for the Pakistan’s ministry of culture as Director General
from 1976 to 1978. He headed the project of National Orchestra and Choral Ensemble of Pakistan in Islamabad.
Sohail Rana has done, what I do not think anybody else has done before: be victorious
in both Urdu and English films—his highly superb music composition for Javed Jabbar’s bilingual movie, ‘Musafir’,
whose English version ‘Beyond the last mountain’ is the first Pakistani film produced in English language.
Moreover, ‘Beyond the last mountain’ won the critical acclaim by the
renowned Indian actor, Raj Kapoor, at the Bombay film festival.
The film ‘Hesaab’ which was released in 1986 happened to be the last
movie for which Sohail Rana composed music.
The choices he made, helped ignite a renaissance of quality that lives on today.
During his memorable show business career in Pakistan, Sohail Rana composed music
for merely twenty-four movies. Three of those movies, ‘Guriya’ ‘Pagal’ and ‘Hulchul’ could
not be released. However, popular numbers from the film ‘Guriya’ and ‘Hulchul’ are available on cassettes
and vinyl Eps.
From ‘Jab say deikha hai tumhain’ to ‘Hesaab’, and from
the children’s songs to the national songs, Sohail Rana came full circle.
Nowadays, Sohail Rana resides in Toronto, Canada. Essentially he operates two
music schools and he is also working diligently to establish a multi media company in Toronto.
He takes active participation in music compositions as well.
Lately, he has focused on several
projects of course in the realm of music, which he plans to complete in 2005. His passion and enthusiasm to create music has
been remarkable and praiseworthy all through these times.
Best of all, the
human spark, spirit, compassion, love and understanding which are the basic ingredients of his music and which have been imbibed
in the hearts of a myriad of music lovers the world over, will never go away.